ACT should abandon Three Strikes
ACT should abandon Three Strikes and develop a ‘Right on Crime’ Strategy
Rethinking Crime and Punishment is urging right wing politicians to do their homework before coming up with one-off “tough on crime – high on vengeance’ sentencing policies for which there is no evidence of success. He was responding to the ACT Party’s three strike policy, in which burglars convicted for the third time will spend three years in prisonwithout parole.
“The conservative right should be able to come up with policies that actually reduce crime and imprisonment levels, without compromising their political principles. The “tough on crime – high on vengeance” rhetoric has lost its appeal in the US and elsewhere, mainly because it doesn’t work. Jamie Whyte should look to the example set by the US Republican Party and its “Right on Crime” strategy, which has been hugely successful in reducing imprisonment levels. As a result of its efforts, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and 15 other states are currently reducing prison populations and saving money, by revoking three strikes laws and mandatory sentencing. They are re-investing that money in programmes that decrease crime and improve public safety such as community-based treatment, probation, and prevention-oriented policing strategies.”
“The ACT Party should also survey burglary victims before deciding on a policy. While imprisonment may be considered necessary for violent and dangerous offenders, victims may have a different attitude toward burglars. The ‘Right on Crime’ movement reported that a recent survey of burglary victims in the USA found 81 percent wanted restitution, 76 percent wanted community service, and only 7 percent wanted a prisons sentence of a year or more. They also found that offenders on probation and parole pay 98 times more restitution to victims than those behind bars.”
“New Zealand already imprisons 40%
of those who appear before the Court on burglary charges,
and they serve an average of 15 months in prison. That
compares to an average of 5 months in Canada and 7 months in
the UK. Even though the sentences currently served by
burglars are three times that served in Canada, and more
than twice that served in the UK, 60% of our ex-prisoners
are reconvicted after two years – 4.5% higher than five
A more effective approach would be to promote community awareness, encourage householders to ‘target harden’ their homes, and increase prevention-oriented policing strategies. Such an approach would also be consistent with the government’s ‘Reducing Crime and Reoffending’ Strategy.